“Don’t bother too much about your feelings. When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them; when they are conceited, selfish, cowardly, ask to have them altered. In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you. What matters is your intentions and your behaviour.” ~C.S. Lewis
Never be ashamed to feel what you feel in any given moment. Every emotion has its proper place, and is never wrong in and of itself.* Including stress.
Stress is, after all, simply a chemical reaction in the body in response to some sort of stimuli. In fact, all emotions are chemical compounds that originate most often in our brain, and are sent out into our bloodstream. They are substances that can be measured. They can be shared, and passed on to others.
For example: A mother sees her child in tears, and her body reacts with an emotional stress response that drives her to comfort the child.
In that moment, several hormones are surging into her bloodstream, stimulating her to act in a way that brings connection between the mother and her little one. It includes stress hormones. In that moment, the mother is stressed. The child is stressed. And it takes a separate chemical cocktail, shared by mother and child, to bring those stress hormones back down to acceptable levels.
Stress enables survival. It enables our ability to get things done. By God’s design.
It’s really a fascinating dance that our bodies do.
People who live lives of consistently high demand – parents of special-needs kids and deployed military men and women, for example – are usually chronically stressed.** The stress hormones maintain high levels in their bloodstreams, due to the extraordinary demands placed on their bodies, minds, and hearts by the very nature of their day-to-day lives.
On one hand, the stress is a benefit to these folks, enabling them to keep putting one foot in front of the other, day after day. It motivates and spurs them on to greater endurance and courage.
On the other hand, science is clear about what long-term chronic stress does to their bodies. It makes them more susceptible to all kinds of illnesses and health problems.
It’s a two-edged sword, but that doesn’t make it something to be ashamed of.
(Quick aside: Science also shows us that those who are able to manage their stress well, lessen their chances of experiencing these tough health problems. Things like prayer, deep breathing, the support of other people in similar situations, exercise and good nutrition all contribute to balancing out the physical stress in their lives.)
Stress, in and of itself, is an emotion. A physiologic, chemical response. Not a sin. Getting stressed out over something isn’t a sin. Like every other emotion we can experience, stress has the potential to drive us to our loving Father. It’s one of those emotions we can “ask to have altered.” And, like all other emotions, it will not stay away. It will come back. It’s the nature of emotions to fluctuate.
Yes, Jesus came that we might have peace. He’s the Prince of Peace, and it’s a peace that defies understanding.
The peace of God being present in a life does not necessarily translate to a Christian who is never stressed out.
A stressed Christian is not any different than a calm one. Both are in a temporary emotional state. I’m pretty sure that even Jesus felt stress at times – especially the night before he faced the Cross. His body was in all kinds of stressed-out turmoil that night. Yet, peace was not absent.
Peace trumps emotions, it doesn’t erase them.
Peace has nothing to do with our brain chemicals or bloodstream. But it can affect them, just like stress can affect our mind and heart.
Instead, peace has everything to do with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The last time I looked, once the Holy Spirit has taken up residence, he doesn’t leave. And, he is peace. Therefore, peace is within us – regardless of the emotions boiling up inside of us.
Our emotions can be affected by something as simple as what we ate for breakfast that morning.
Not so, the Holy Spirit. He is immovable. He is either there, or not. Stress has nothing to do with it. Do you really think that such a small thing to God as our stress has the power to destroy our peace? I say not.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
I don’t see in this passage where it says that we have to get rid of our anxieties and our stress before we can come to God. It says we take that anxiety to God, and peace guards us. Peace is the brick wall our emotions bash themselves into.
I think we Christians are capable of forgetting that Peace Himself lives in us. I do not think we are capable of “losing” our peace, because peace is not an emotion. It’s an immovable object within us.
The more we learn to cast our cares on the One who cares for us, the more often we’ll remember that peace. The more often we take up our stand inside its towers, the quicker we’ll be to fend off the stress and anxiety that has cropped up yet again.
So, when you’re feeling stressed out – don’t be ashamed of it. You are not offending God. It’s not wrong to feel that way. Ever.
Feeling stressed is not a sin.
Stress originates in the body, not the heart or the mind. It cannot harm the heart or mind when peace guards them, as long as we take advantage of that precious refuge as soon as stress comes knocking.
In the meantime, do not neglect to care for your body, and learn some basic stress management techniques. Your mind and your heart need that body to do God’s work in your daily life.
Grace & Peace,
*Of course, there are right and wrong ways to express and act on our emotions, but that is not what I’m addressing in this post. I am addressing ONLY emotions as emotions.
**There are some who choose to walk in chronic stress, simply because of their schedules. They just need to learn a little better where to set their boundaries for commitments. They aren’t in sin either – but I’m not really speaking to them here.